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How To Plan Your Year

Anton shares the system used by himself and his team for yearly and quarterly planning. Listen to this episode now and implement the lessons to set yourself up for success in 2019!

  • Between being in Vietnam, Christmas and New Years, we are planning our year this week in our office.
  • Our process for planning out the new year takes a combination of books and a workshop from a Austin-based company called Digital Marketer. 
  • Start by looking back at the previous year. Ask yourself about the previous year's goals and did you hit those goals?
  • Step 2 is to set a goal for this upcoming year (our goal is based on our company's growth goals...we measure by our top-line revenue).
  • Step 3 is identifying the gap of where you are and where you want to be. 
  • When you get to a certain part for scale, it isn't about throwing more fuel on the fire. Spending 75% more in ad-spend won't increase your revenue by 75%. 
  • To figure out what we need to do, we build a product grid. List your products on the left and on top, list the channels for customer acquisition.
  • When you come up with new ideas and projects, make sure you come up with roadmaps and due dates for the projects to know how you will finish these projects.
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    Picture of Digital Marketer's Product Channel Grid that we used during our meeting:

    Transcripts

    Hey, what's up everybody? Antony Kraly here from eCommerceLifestyle.com. Welcome to another episode of the eCommerce Lifestyle Podcast. This one I'm recording a little bit different than usual. Typically, I record these on my way into the office. Today I'm recording it on the way home. It's about 5:30 on Monday. I think it's January 7th. I just wanted to kind of check in and record this quick message to share it with you to let you know kind of how today went in the office because today was the first day of our quarterly planning for Q1 of 2019.

    Typically, the way we like to do it is plan before the quarter but being the end of Q4 means ... I mean, I was in Vietnam for a month but on top of that we had Christmas, you have New Years, just a lot of time with family and what not, so yeah, we did our planning today, so a week into Q1. What I wanted to share is the process that we use because I'm almost positive that every single person listening to this right now could use the same and make sure they have a more successful Q1 of this year.

    We follow a process that is pretty much a combination of a bunch of books that I read and a combination of a workshop that I went through from the company digital marketer, another Austin based company over here. They have a pretty good system. Again, their system is basically a combination of a bunch of really good books so put the two together you got a winning formula. The first thing that we do and the first thing that I recommend you do is, first, start by looking back. Look back at the previous year and typically it's look back at the previous quarter but the first quarter planning, look back at the previous year.

    Kind of just ask yourself some serious questions like, in this case right now, at the end of 2017, when you were starting 2018, what did you think was going to happen that year? Did you have any goals? If you did, what were those goals that you had set for yourself for 2018 and did you hit them?

    So originally, your previous year plan, did you have one? Did things work out? Did they not work out? And why? Some of the questions that we ask ourselves to go a little deeper and everybody on the team does this, is what are things from the previous year that I am most proud of? What are some of the biggest accomplishments? What were some things that we regret? Again, this is something you should do personally. What are some things that you regret from the previous year? Again, without all of this information laid out in front of you, it's really hard to plan for the next year. Definitely recommend taking some time and again, just do a deep dive into the past 12 months, kind of how you saw things going before it happened. Then how things actually went and then just try to hypothesize and take away some life lessons from it. Like, why do you think things worked? Why do you think things didn't work?

    You can use that to move forward because the second step once you kind of complete this look back phase is to set a goal for the new year. For us, we typically try to grow anywhere between 50 and 75 percent year over year. What we always focus on is just top line revenue because it's the easiest thing for us to track and the easiest thing to look at a dashboard every day and know if we're moving towards that direction. Typically, again on the high end for most of our businesses, we're looking for 75 percent growth from the previous year. On the low end, we're looking for 50 percent. Again, you can measure this in different ways. For us, the way that we measure it is top line revenue. What we do then is write down that goal. We literally look at the finances of the business together, write that previous year's top line number, write down that number times 1.75 and that is the new target for the new year. From there, we have the goal. Okay, great.

    Then we have to look at where we were at last year, where we want to be this year, and what is that gap? Step three is identifying the gap. Again, for us because we try to grow in terms of revenue, top line revenue, it's pretty simple. We can just pull up our month by month sales numbers from the previous year and then again, times them by 1.75 and see what that gap is, the difference between 75 percent growth and where we're at in 2018. Then boom, that's the gap. These are the new numbers that we have to hit in addition to what we already did the previous year to reach our new goals. Okay.

    At this point, we've done three things. We have identified what worked last year, what didn't work last year. We have pulled from lessons from last year that we can apply to this year. We have now in step two set our growth target. Again, we like to use revenue. We like to have it at about 75 percent. Step three is we identified that gap in between our revenue last year and where it needs to be this year.

    Now step four is, in my opinion, the most important step of this whole thing because in step four, you work with your team to think, okay, what do we have to do to fill that gap, to get that extra money? There's a lot of different things that might apply to your business that maybe apply to ours, maybe that don't, but some of the easiest things to think of are, okay, what if we just spent more? What if we just spent 75 percent more in all of our budgets, would that mean that we would then hit our growth targets?

    Now I'll tell you from experience and from trying that, the answer is no. When you get to a certain point in terms of scale for traffic, it's not as easy as just throwing more fuel on the fire. If it was, we would all be billionaires. You have to try to get creative, kind of get creative as you get into multi seven figure ad spend which is where we're at. Then we start thinking, okay, let's look at all the different products and companies we have. Let's look at all the different ways that we currently get traffic.

    What we then do, again, this part I got from Digital Marketer, is build a product grid and maybe what I'll do is post on eCommerceLifestyle.com. I'll post what this looks like to give you a visual representation, but basically what we do, if you could picture basically a graph or a chart and on the left chart, you list all your different products or offers and then on the right, on the top of the columns, you list all your different channels for customer acquisition. Maybe on the top you have things like Facebook, Instagram, Google Ads, You Tube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, organic, anywhere you get traffic from. Then again, on the left, you have all your different offers.

    Then what you do is start looking and basically make different marks for where products match with different ad channels. What's good about this is it's going to get you to see, okay, this is where sales are currently coming from for different products. Well, why aren't we getting sales for product ABC from sales channels four, fix, six, and seven? Is the reason that it's not aligning just because you never tried it, or is it because you tried it and it didn't work and you can revisit it? Or what's the real reason? If you notice, you know what? I bet that Facebook Ads would work great to drive sales for product 123, we just never did it. Then that's going to become one of the things that you list as far as action tasks to help close that gap and again, make up for that extra revenue. Again, I realize now as I'm sitting in my car driving home, this is kind of hard to give a visual representation of what it looks like just by talking. What I would encourage you to do if you're finding this useful is go to eCommerceLIfestyle.com and click on episodes. Again, this is going to go live January 7th. Go to the website January 8th or later and then look for an episode called Yearly Planning and then I'll post, again, screenshots of what this looks like underneath so that you can go ahead and implement it into your business. Again, eCommerceLifestyle.com anytime after January 8th. Click on episodes. Then look for the templates that I'll give you over there.

    Again, the purpose of this is to look for opportunity that you otherwise wouldn't just think of and then the real key is once you have this product grid filled out, and again, do it with your team if you have a team. Then the real key is to look for the biggest wins from there. So things that are just kind of like no-brainers to you, like well of course we should do this first. And try to find the different action tasks that will give you the best chance of closing the gap with the smallest amount of effort possible. Basically what you're trying to identify are big wins that are easy to implement. The biggest wins that take the least amount of time because those are going to be the things you should do first.

    Because one thing that's funny, whenever it comes to yearly planning and goal setting, we all typically set these big goals for a year and then we kind of think, well, we have 12 months. But the truth is for anybody that's done this before, you really want to put your new year plan into place in Q1 of the year because if you don't, if you wait and all of a sudden we're in June and July, then all of a sudden we're in August and September, then what? Are you really going to put your new plans into place and then have three months to hit your yearly goals? No. You have to actually really map out the entire year now and then you have to kind of do what I call sprints which are get things accomplished as soon as possible so that they can actually have time to really reap the full rewards and reach those goals.

    Because even something like 75 percent to grow year over year, I mean we've been in business for over a decade, so that's a big goal for a mature company. But when you put things into place based on real data looking back, it is more than possible, but you got to do it January, February, March. You have to be getting things done. It's funny. When you look at opportunities. I'll tell you, one of the things that we came up with today as far as what we looked back on last year and saw a big opportunity was just what I'm talking about. It's when we come up with new ideas and have new projects, making sure that as a team, we come up with roadmaps to get to them that have actual deliverables, meaning like assets due on certain dates and due dates for the entire projects because again, even though I've been doing this for over a decade, there are still plenty of times that time kind of gets away from us and months go by and something that should've been done doesn't get done. All of a sudden, again, we're well into the year and we're not at the goal.

    Yeah. Basically big takeaways from this. I apologize if I'm rambling a bit. My mind has been going a million miles a second all day as I've been talking more than I ever talk with the team. But if you get any takeaways from this, again, follow these steps for planning. Do this now before it gets away from you. Take a look back at last year. Think about what you thought was going to happen before the year started. Write down if it actually happened or if it didn't. Either way, write down why you think you had your wins and hit your goals or you didn't.

    From there, make your goal for this year. Make it something big, but make it something that's actually achievable. From there, you want to go ahead and just go ahead and look at the gap from where you were and where you want to be. Then you can start looking at things you can actually do to close that gap. Go for the things that take the shortest amount of time and require the least amount of effort first by you making your product grid. Then go ahead and take action, execute on those right away. Everything else can trickle in after that. Again, final takeaway from this is do it sooner than later because before you know it, we're going to be in Q3 and you're going to be thinking where did the time go?

    Hope you found this useful. I'm home. I'm going to go inside and hang out with the family. Yeah. Go to eCommerceLifestyle.com/episodes and look for this one called Quarterly Planning or Yearly Planning anytime after January 8th for the worksheets. Thank you everybody. Have a good night and I'll talk to you in the next episode of eCommerce Lifestyle. See ya.

  • King says:

    Very good content! Thank you for sharing.

  • Matt Scott says:

    Love it!

  • Robert says:

    New Year, New Start 🙂

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